The Merrickville Celebrates Women event will help raise funds for a vital resource in the area, one that, unfortunately, continues to be needed. Leeds and Grenville Interval House [LGIH] provides emergency shelter, outreach counselling and transitional support for abused women and their children throughout the Leeds & Grenville area. It offers accommodation, counselling and a 24-hour crisis and support line for women in distress. All of their services are confidential and offered free of charge.
The subject of domestic violence is one that we are all aware of to some degree, yet there remains a distinct unwillingness to discuss it more openly. The stigma and shame many victims of violence feel, unnecessarily, is only strengthened by the silence. What is essential to remember is that, as the Ontario Attorney General’s Office emphasises: “Domestic violence is a serious crime. Domestic violence is any use of physical or sexual force, actual or threatened, by your partner or ex-partner. Threatening, hitting, kicking, punching, pushing, stalking and harassing another person are crimes. Having sex with a person against that person’s will is also a crime. Being married does not change this. A person committing these acts can be arrested, charged, convicted and jailed”.
Oppression need not only involve acts of physical violence. Domestic violence can also include threats to harm children, other members of a family, pets and property. Domestic violence is committed primarily by men towards women. However, domestic violence can be committed by women against men and also occurs in same-sex relationships. The violence might be meant to scare, intimidate or humiliate, or to make a person feel powerless. The violence might also include a number of acts that could sound minor by themselves, but together make up a pattern of abuse.
The Attorney General’s Office also points out that “domestic violence can also take the form of psychological/emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and economic/financial abuse. Although not always considered criminal offences, these forms of abuse are very serious”.
The LGIH is committed to supporting women, children and youth experiencing violence and working collaboratively with the community to eliminate all forms of violence and oppression. The Two Steps Forward women’s group meets every second Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Women who have experienced abuse are invited to attend. LGIH states that “the group’s focus is positive: while we acknowledge past experiences and share coping skills to deal with ongoing stressors, the overall goal is to move forward in a confident and hopeful direction”. For more information and the next meeting date, call 613-342-4724 to contact Dawn (ext 103) or Heidi (ext 102).
There is also a Residential Service provided in a 10-bed facility in Brockville, where women and their children can be housed safely. Once again, there is no charge for this, or any LGIH service. LGIH explained that “while in the shelter, women can receive supportive counselling, transition and housing support, including advocacy and accompaniment to appointments where necessary and possible. Clients may participate in personal safety planning and support groups in order to help them to move toward a life free from violence. A children’s worker is available to provide programming and supportive counselling for children who have witnessed violence”.
Outreach services are available throughout Leeds & Grenville, where women experiencing abuse can access supportive counselling. LGIH staff will accompany women to legal appointments, and remain in support throughout any legal process. These services do not have to involve visiting a home, but can take place there or in a location where the clients feel safe, or at LGIH itself.
It is absolutely essential that those suffering domestic abuse of all kinds know that Interval House is there, ready to help in any way that is needed. Women and children in that situation need to know that they are not alone, not as isolated and helpless as they are often made to feel. Leeds Grenville Interval House can be found on-line at www.lgih.ca. For more information, or to make an appointment please call the Crisis Line at 613-342-8815 or toll-free 1-800-267-4409. You can also learn about hiding your internet use and staying safe. The Ontario Women’s Directorate website is also a very useful source of information: www.women.gov.on.ca.